Monday, December 31, 2007

We had a hay day today!

I spent some time on the phone the past few days trying to locate hay for both the alpacas and the cows. The alpacas need about 100 bales of a good quality orchard grass hay and the cows need about twice that but not anything quite so nice (or expensive) so I was working on finding sources for both of them.

Luckily, I found some good quality orchard/timothy grass right here in Roxboro. They only had 10 bales available but would ask another past buyer if she wanted to sell 50 of her bales as well. So, today we went over to pick up our 10 bales. They were a nice young family with two kids almost the ages of Evan and McKayla. They also had a trio of Nigerian Dwarf goats and one of their does looked very much like our chocolate doe Peppermint. We had a nice but short visit there.

We ran some errands in town then took our bales of hay and groceries home before headed out to our next stop. Yesterday we had stopped in at a local farm about 5 miles from us that had a barn full of round bales of hay. I had asked if they were selling any of their hay and was told yes they sure were. The round bales were mostly fescue and about 1000+ lbs each. We asked for three at $40 a piece. It should feed the cows and donkeys for at least a month I hope. As it was raining still yesterday we arraigned to come back today to pick them up. All three round bales actually fit onto our trailer and we made the short ride home. It was dark by the time we pulled into the driveway so we left the bales on the trailer overnight.

I will also note here (so I can remember when I did it) that I wormed Cherry Blossom and Riona , our Dexter cows today.

The chickens gave us 15 eggs today.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The barn is buzzing with energy!

What a day... so many things to write about today.

It started out before I even left the house this morning. I was standing in the kitchen getting the carrots for the rabbits as I do every morning and as I looked out the window I could see our alpaca Noodle laying out in the middle of the pasture by herself. I thought this was odd so I watched her for a second. She soon got up and walked over the the poop pile with her tail up and then walked off still with her tail up.

I went into the living room where Neil was stoking the fire and said "Hey, Noodle is in labor!". Now, Noodle is the same alpaca that was due anytime after 12/15 but didn't look pregnant to me nor have I felt any fetal movements and two days ago was untrasounded as open. So, Neil responded with "Really?" I headed out to the barn to work on chores while keeping an eye on Noodle. When I feed the rest of the girls (alpacas) Noodle did not come in from the pasture. I walked out to look at her and her vulva was dilating so it confirmed my thought. I went in a fed our cow Riona as she was still separated out with her new calf, but some hay out for her and the alpacas and went and peeked at Noodle again. She had already progressed so much that the cria's nose and front hooves were out. I headed up to the house to get the camera and to let Neil know that if he wanted to see the birth he had better get outside soon.

By the time Neil got down to the barn I had gotten Noodle in from the pasture and the LGDs out as they were far too interested in the bits that were sticking out already. Within 20 minutes our newest cria was born. A medium fawn girl with vicuna markings (a lighter underside). She appeared healthy enough but she was tiny! I estimated at about 10lbs. A normal cria weight should be about 12-16lbs. I got her dried off, as it was pretty chilly outside with a strong wind, and got her fleece cria coat on her right away. Once Noodle got a good sniff of her I moved them both into the barn and gave Noodle some breakfast.

Neil went back to the house to check on the kids while I busied myself with the rest of my chores and keeping an eye on the little cria to make sure she was doing OK. At about an hour old the cria began trying to stand up and with a little help for balance started looking to nurse. Noodle on the other hand didn't seem to want anything to do with nursing and would continually move away from the cria every time. This was odd as she was such a good mom to her last cria and nursed him until he was 10 months old. I ended up holding Noodle's head so that she would hold still and let the cria nurse and get that all important colostrum.

Later in the morning it was decided that we should let Riona and her calf out with the other cows to get some exercise. I also needed to muck out their stall and this was easier done without them in it. Well, that lead to a 45 minute physical struggle between Riona and Cherry Blossom, our boss cow. Blossom has always pushed Riona around but now that she had a calf to protect Riona wasn't backing down as easily. They pushed, shoved and chased each other till they were exhausted.

Meanwhile, I cleaned out the barn and Neil got started making space for his saws so he could start siding the goat barn. We both worked on stripping the chicken wire off the outside of the goat barn on the sides Neil was working on today. This was a frustrating job as there was a gazillion staples holding it on and they all had to be individually cut with wire cutters. I made sure at least every hour I went in and held Noodle while the cria nursed. It gets dark here about 5pm and Neil was trying to get the front of the goat barn done tonight as the goats had made a hole in the chicken wire covering it and could get out at their leisure.

We were working by flashlight by this time and Neil was just nailing on the final panel of the day when we heard alpacas screaming! I knew it was Peter and Sid our two mature intact males. The thing is they were in adjoining pastures so shouldn't be able to get to each other. Neil and I ran over to the screaming and found Peter on top of Sid and the two were struggling to get up. By flashlight Neil and I quickly assessed the fact that the two of them had entangled themselves in the electric string fencing. It was caught in Sid's mouth around both their legs and necks. The fencing needed to be cut and fast. I stayed with the alpacas and tried to keep them calm and from not struggling further while Neil ran to the barn to get the wire cutters. Once the wires were cut they both got up and walked away... mouths hanging open from constant spitting and screaming. By flashlight I tried to see if either had any serious injuries but I just couldn't see that well. Both of them were walking with no visible limp and we had no blood on us from handling them so I hoped they were OK for the night. I am just so glad that that happened when it did and not 30 minutes later when we would never have heard them up at the house. I hate to even think of that outcome.

After that burst of adrenaline Neil went up to the house while I did the evening chores. Once up at the house Neil and I looked at each other and agreed that was just too much emotion for one day.

I made one final barn check at 10pm to hold Noodle again for the cria to nurse. Everyone else seemed settled in for the night.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Rain, rain, go away....

I can not even believe that I am complaining about the rain after our long summer draught but it has been raining for 4-5 days straight now. The areas around the barn where the animals come in and out are slick with mud... I sink in at least 6 inches deep in the cow pasture! Only last month this ground was cracked it was so dry. I love we are getting rain... I just wish we would have a day or two of dry weather in between.

Anyway, this morning Ed Kinser from Enchanted Hills Alpacas (the farm we purchased the alpacas Celtic Woman and Peter Piper from as well as our three Nigerian Dwarf Goats and some of our chickens too) drove down to our farm from VA. He was here to look at our 8 month old female alpaca, Celia. We are hopefully going to be making a trade with Ed with Celia for his breeding male Derwydd Peruvian Novio. The Kinser's are breeding for appaloosas and Novio just doesn't fit their breeding plan and I have always liked him and planned to breed Celtie to him this month anyway.

Derwydd Peruvian Novio

So, Ed was down here looking at Celia and her mom Gritona. I mentioned that I wasn't sure if Gritona was bred or not and Ed piped up that he had his portable ultrasound machine in the car and he would be more then happy to check her for me. (It is the visible kind not the audible kind.) Ed said that he would be more then happy to check all my girls if I wanted as it didn't take very long. (Ed also understandably stated that he couldn't be responsible for the accuracy of the results as he is not a vet.)

We checked Gritona who is 6 months along and determined she was pregnant, then we did Eloise who is 3 months along and found her to be pregnant as well. We then did Fiore and not surprisingly we didn't see anything that would make us believe she was pregnant. Then, finally, we did Noodle as she just hasn't "looked" pregnant to me and I have not been able to feel any fetal movements at all when I have checked over the last few weeks. Well, Noodle came up as open as well.

I was a bit disapointed in not getting a cria out of Noodle this year. Things like this happen when you raise livestock. If this deal goes through with Novio I plan to just pasture breed him to all 5 of our open girls in January... next December will be busy!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to wish all our family and friends a Merry Christmas! We miss you all!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Duck anyone?

So, the main thing I wanted to get done right after chores this morning was to butcher our drake duck for dinner tonight. Neil and I rounded him up and took him back behind the shed where I have the killing cones set up. I had warned Neil that he was strong and would be difficult to keep hold of but still I don't think Neil was prepared for the struggle he got.

I had been dreading this job for two reasons. First, the ducks all have very distinct personalities, unlike the chickens, so it was going to be emotionally harder to kill one of the ducks. But, secondly, I was not looking forward to hand plucking the feathers from the duck either. The oil on the feathers makes scalding less effective so most resources recommend dry plucking. Ducks also have two layers of feathers; the exterior feathers and the downy feathers underneath. This makes for more difficult plucking.

Not to disappoint, the plucking of the duck was awful. Neil and I both worked on the duck trying to get the feathers out for almost an hour. The whole time I was muttering that next year we will be sending our ducks out to be processed. I do not want to repeat that task again!

On the other hand he sure was tasty! I prepared Duck à l'orange for the first time for our Christmas Eve dinner. It wasn't that difficult and he came out delicious. I also made a mushroom risotto along with sauteed brussel sprouts with garlic.

After dinner Neil made his famous chocolate chip cookies that are about 5 inches across and chewy and full of chocolate. His Dad particularly loves them so Neil made a whole extra batch as a Christmas present for his Dad. Some we put out for Santa along with both Chocolate and Strawberry milk because Evan and McKayla wanted to know which one Santa liked best.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Yard cleanup.

Neil's parents arrived in town last night to spend a few days with us, including Christmas.

We had asked Neil's dad to bring up his leaf blower when he came as the leaves where piled high all over the yard. Neil's dad blew the leaves for us while Neil went out into the pasture to cut up more of our downed tree with the big chainsaw.

Me? I spent the day wrapping presents because MiMi (Neil's mom) took the kids for the day so I could get it all done in peace.

Then tonight the kids decorated their gingerbread house. I esembled the house and then gave the icing bag to Evan and dishes of candy for both of them and just let them go for it. I think it came out really good for a 3 and 5 year old.
McKayla and Evan decorating the gingerbread house.

The finished house.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Our newest member...

Tonight Neil brought home the newest member of the farm.

Neil has been working in Charlotte, NC and after getting out of work today he stopped and picked up our third American Chinchilla rabbit. This will be our second doe. She came from the same breeder as our other two but from a different genetic line so we could have some diversity in our breeding. The breeder also exposed her to a buck overnight last night so if all went well she is coming to us pregnant and will kindle in 30-32 days.

Neil got home late after his long drive so we placed her in her new home next to the other buns in the dark. I hope she settles in OK.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And so he shall be know as...

Well, our new little calf seems to be doing well. I have him and Riona sectioned off in the alpaca side of the barn all by themselves. Riona has proven to be quite protective of him and head butts the fence if the alpacas or dogs come too close.

I have been trying to handle him as much as possible so he (hopefully) will not be afraid of me as he grows. This afternoon, I was rubbing his ears and I noticed that the tips of his ears which should come to a point like an inverted letter "V" in fact seemed to have notches in them that made the tips of his ears like the letter "M". I had never seen anything like this before. Since it affected both ears symmetrically I knew it was unlikely to be an injury.

I posted a question about it on the American Dexter Cattle Association chat site to see if anyone else had seen this before. Well, it turns out that the Dexter is one a few breeds that carry the "ear notching" co-dominant gene. It is not considered a fault in the breed but it was recommended not to breed for it as it can become severe and the ears end up looking like tulips! No worries with my little guy as he is destined for our freezer in 18 months anyway. But, I will have to be careful how I breed Riona to in the future.

So, in light of my little guys ears, I officially dubbed him "Nick". The name fits him well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's a boy!

Finally, Riona (our Irish Dexter first freshener cow) delivered us a bull calf today... only eight days overdue!

I noticed her off by herself being restless about 10:30am this morning. By 11am she was beginning to have hard contractions. I went out into the pasture to be near her but not too close and watched for about 30 minutes. She was having contractions about every 2 minutes or so. I had to go back up to the house to check on the kids but returned 45 minutes later (about 12:15pm) to find that she had progressed enough that I could see two little hooves had emerged!

As this was her first calf I am sure she was a little confused with what was going on. She kept walking around, especially during contractions. I'm sure it helped with the pain and moving the calf along in the process. She was being pestered by our 8 month old bull calf, Chuck. He followed her around everywhere. By 12:45pm Riona was lying down during her hardest contractions and again Chuck was right there licking her head. After she got up and down a few more times I noticed that Chuck had figured out that Riona was lactating and was using her as a milk bar while she was pushing... how rude! I decided it was time I got more involved then just watching from a distance so I moved in to keep Chuck away from her (well at least her udder). It was only two more good pushes and at 1:03pm the calf was delivered!

As I expected, and the main reason I wanted to be with Riona when she calved, was that as Riona got back to her feet our boss cow Cherry Blossom (Chuck's mom) moved in between Riona and her calf. CB loves the babies and would have prevented Riona from returning to him if I had not been there. So while I was checking the calf over Riona moved away about 30 feet and watched.

Since Riona delivered him lying down he never was hung head down during the delivery. This is an important thing as when they are head down hanging from mom during delivery the fluid in their lungs is expelled through their mouth and nose. So, immediately after he was born I cleared his nose and mouth of any membranes and lifted him by his back hocks and hung him for 3-4 seconds. Then I rubbed his rib cage to stimulate him to breath and took a peak to see if it was a heifer or bull calf. Meanwhile CB had been licking him off or trying too with all my fussing with him. So, I picked the slimy little guy up and took him over to Riona, who seemed very pleased to have him back and started cleaning him off right away.

I let Riona bond with him for about 15 minutes all the while scooting off Cherry Blossom and Chuck (who was still trying to nurse from Riona). We were all on the far side of our five acre pasture, it was cold outside enough that we could see our breath and the calf was starting to shiver so I picked the little guy up (thank goodness for mini breeds as he was only about 40lbs) and headed to the barn. I had hoped that Riona would follow me up but she didn't budge a bit. So, up at the barn I got the calf settled into the dog crate that had straw already in it (from our canine visitors earlier this week) and covered him over with a heavy towel. Then I grabbed a lead rope and went back down for Riona.

I needed to keep Riona and the calf away from Cherry Blossom and Chuck, at least for a few days until they bonded well, so I moved Riona into the female alpaca pasture. This has the added benefit of having the largest area inside the barn with lots of dry straw to help keep the little guy warm. Once reunited Riona was very pleased and become quite protective of him with the LGDs and alpacas, not letting them come close to check him out. I stayed out in the barn with them until I was comfortable that everyone was going to get along. Also, I wanted to stay until the calf got up to stand and nurse for the first time. That happened about 2:15pm.

I returned to the barn to check on things around 3pm. The calf was resting at first but after a few minutes got up to nurse again. By 3:30pm Riona had past the placenta which the dogs quickly disposed of for her. It might seem a bit disgusting to let the dogs do this but it is part of their "job". Livestock guardian dogs instinctly remove anything from the pastures that would produce a scent that would attract predators. This is especially important around vulnerable newborns that would be easy prey to coyotes.

My final check down at the barn was at 9:30pm. He was up and nursing again... strong little guy. I am a bit worried about him getting chilled tonight but hopefully he will stay in the barn and not wander outside. I am not sure Riona would know to bring him back inside.

With all that went on today I also had to deal with totally frozen water lines to the barn. I had to tote water from the house at least three times today. It will be a long winter if I have to do that everyday. Hopefully this weekend Neil can figure something out to insulate the hoses.

The chickens gave 15 eggs today but after I collected them I forgot them outside and they froze.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Daily happenings.

I woke up around 7am as usual and peered out the windows. It seemed bright and sunny out and I saw no sign of a frost but for some reason I just couldn't get going this morning. I much preferred to snuggle up on the couch with Evan in front of the wood stove which was burning away after stoking it this morning. Finally, about 8:45am I figured I needed to go do the morning chores.

Outside it was chilly still and when I went to water the animals my water hose was frozen so I know that it must of gotten cold overnight. But, it was dry and the animals all seemed happy to be laying about in the sun.

When I had Riona on the milking stanchion, so she could eat her breakfast in peace, I actually was able to strip some milk out of one of her teats. I really wish she would go ahead and have this calf. I am looking forward to having our own fresh dairy products from here on the farm.

I tasted one of the pickled eggs that a I made a few days ago. It was so good! Probably the best pickled egg I have ever had. Needless to say I had a total of four with in an hour. :) I also put another 32 eggs on to hard boil. The kids really like HB eggs for snacks and we have plenty to eat up. I will put about a dozen of these into the pickling brine as well.

My two duck drakes were fighting again this morning. I had never seen ducks fight before and it can be quite comical. But, I really don't need two drakes and they are both black so one will have to go. The larger one has "angel wing" and is much heavier caruncled on the head so he will be the one to go. I will have to wait for Neil to help me with the deed as I tried to pick him up and he was just too strong and wiggly for me to keep hold of. I think we will having duck for Christmas!

Only 12 eggs today.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Another canine visitor.

This morning while doing chores Emmie and Berk, our LGDs, started barking like crazy out in the pasture. I was in the chicken coop so I came out to see what was going on. Up by the house was what looked like a golden retriever. It was moving over to the fence line to checkout Emmie and Berk even though they were absolutely nuts and trying to climb the 6' fence to get to him. I called out and when the golden saw me he came running over. Again, it turned out to be a young dog, somewhere between 6 months and year old at the most. I had no problem catching him by the collar. He had a tag with a phone number on it so I put him in our dog kennel and had Neil call the owners to let them know we had their dog.

Neil had to leave a message and as it was Sunday we figured the owners were at church. After calling the golden's owners several more times we finally got him home around 3pm!

For a good part of the day Neil worked on the electric fence so the animals would stay put in it again. Our Anatolian dog Emmie has been getting out most nights and this morning our bull calf was out wandering about for the third time this week. Neil changed the fence from a grounded system to an alternating loop system where instead of each line being "hot" the animals must touch two of the five strands to be shocked. This will work better in our drought conditions we hope.

It was cold outside so I made up a pot of French Onion soup for dinner and I made homemade bread bowls to serve it in. Boy, didn't that hit the spot after being outside most of the day!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Daily happenings

It was cold and rainy today. At times it was just misty and others it poured but either way it was cold and wet all day.

Still no babies. This makes Riona (the cow) 4 days overdue. Noodle (the alpaca) was only due today. Her pregnancy was never confirmed via ultrasound so I am not even sure she is actually pregnant.

I discovered this new breadmachine recipe for White Bread on one of the boards that I read "Keeping a Family Cow" moderated by Joann, author of the book by the same name. The loaf came out beautifully with a perfect crust and it was dense and chewy on the inside. I think I will be using this recipe for a while!

For 2 lb loaf of White Bread:

1.5 C buttermilk
2 Tbs honey
2 Tbs olive oil
1.5 tsp salt
4 C bread flour (sub up to 1/2 wheat flour for wheat bread)
1 Tbs yeast

Use the regular cycle, light-medium crust. Push the button!

For dinner I put the breadmachine to work again and made some pizza dough for homemade pizza for dinner. As usual I made one cheese and one pepperoni but I also kept a small bit a dough aside and made cinnamon bread sticks out of them for dessert. Tasty!

Neil went up into the attic and brought down all the Christmas decorations this afternoon. He then set up the tree and put on the lights. Evan, McKayla and I then got it all decorated. It looks really pretty. It was so comforting tonight as I sat knitting to the lights of the Christmas tree and the wood stove, Neil and Evan were piled on the couch sleeping, and Christmas music played in the background. I love evenings like this.

The hens gave 15 eggs today.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The waiting game...

It rained last night. It was just a light rain but still I swear I could hear the earth sigh a sigh of relief. Here in the Southeast we are still experiencing a severe drought and most major cities are either out of water or very close. I hope this doesn't continue into the new year... it has been our biggest challenge our first year on the farm.

Yesterday I had e-mailed Riona's (one of our Irish Dexter cows) original owner to see if I could get a firm date on when she was bred. I was told when I picked her up last April that she had been bred in Jan and then again in Feb. According to my cow gestation calendar, if she had been bred on the last day of Feb she should have calved on December 7th.

I heard back from her today saying that her last breeding date was recorded as March 4th. Still, that would put her due date as December 11th so she is still overdue. She is bagging up and her vulva is swollen and this morning I noticed some mucous discharge from her vulva so maybe it will be soon! I can only hope!

Speaking of eminent babies... one of our alpacas, Noodle, has a due date of tomorrow the 15th. So I have been watching her closely. Alpacas very rarely show any signs of parturition prior to being in active labor so there really isn't much I can watch for to give me a clue if she is on schedule. Again, just a waiting game.

The hens have been providing so many eggs for us lately ( seventeen today) that we haven't been able to eat them fast enough. I have been trying to find more recipes to use them in. Tonight I made a batch of pickled eggs. This is the recipe I used:

German-Style Pickled Eggs

2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon mustard seed
6 whole cloves
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled

In a large saucepan, combine the first eight ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Cool completely. Place onions and eggs in a large jar; add enough vinegar mixture to completely cover. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. Use a clean spoon each time you remove eggs for serving. May be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

*Note on using fresh eggs in this recipe. Truly fresh eggs are near imposable to peel when hard boiled. I planned ahead for making hard boiled eggs by setting aside several dozen eggs a few weeks ago. When I cooked these up they peeled wonderfully. I just keep replacing my "older egg" stash with the oldest eggs in the house as I use them and use my "fresh eggs" in my everyday cooking.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Evening's activity

I don't think I have slept through the night in a few weeks. Every night it is something new on the farm.

Last night Emmie and Berk, our LGDs, started barking about 12:45am. I had only been in bed for about 30 minutes so I really wasn't even asleep yet. Their barking didn't stop right away which was my clue that something was up. I got dressed and went out to the barn to investigate (I keep hoping that it will be a new calf).

I didn't see anything out of normal so I was just leaning on the gate in the barn speaking with the LGDs when I heard a howl... a beagle howl. Emmie and Berk immediately started barking and jumping up on the fence. I looked back up to the house where the howl seemed to come from and I could see a beagle looking dog in front of the house... then I saw two. With noses to the ground and howling as beagles do they started coming down to the barn. Emmie and Berk where beside themselves at this point! As I watched them move toward me I realized I was seeing more then two... there were FOUR! As they reached the barn and started smelling everything I could see that they were young dogs... maybe 4-5 months old (very cute). As cute as they might have been their presence and their howling was causing quite a stir around the barn. The LGDs were going crazy, I could hear the alpacas alarming, the donkeys were braying and the poultry were squawking! I needed to do something with these pups. I didn't want to just run them off as I would hate for something bad to happen to them. I dug around in the barn and dragged out my wire collapsible dog kennel and set about to catch the pups. This turned out to not be an easy task. They seemed friendly but skittish and would run from me anytime I got close. Well, it took over 20 minutes to successfully catch all four of them and get them secured in the kennel. I threw some straw in with them and covered over most of the kennel with a blanket (mostly to keep them quiet as it was a very warm night). Thankfully, they were all wearing orange reflective collars with a brass nameplates riveted to them. The last pup into the kennel I slipped the collar off of him before leaving them to go back to the house. It was now 1:30am but I called the number on the collar just the same in case the owners were actively looking for the pups so they would know they were safe and secure for the night. I left a message and headed to bed.

I slept horribly, if at all, with the pups and the LGDs barking all night. By 6am I was up and out doing chores. Around 7:30am I called the number on the pups collar again to make sure they had heard my message. The pups were so loud and the animals were still on edge I really wanted them picked up sooner then later. This time I spoke with the wife and she said her husband was on his way to get them. True to her word an older Southernly gentleman showed up about 10 minutes later to collect the pups. He was so apologetic about the pups causing trouble for me. Turns out he forgot to latch their gate last night. I was just happy to have them returned home safely!

15 eggs today.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Well, I was outside around 3am this morning again. This time I was woken up to thumping on the deck. When I looked out it was Emmie, one of our Anatolian LGDs, sniffing around for spilled cat food. Emmie is supposed to be confined to the livestock pastures but with no rain and our dry ground the electric fence has not been "grounding". In other words it is not shocking the animals when they touch it. Emmie, has figured this out and she has been having nightly adventures out of the pasture.

So, I got dressed and went out to return Emmie to the pasture where she belongs. I was hanging out in the barn for a few minutes just watching the animals when a heard something walking through the dry leaves just outside the barn. Tate, my fearless Entlebucher dog, had come outside with me but he was at my feet.

Neither Tate or the LGDs seemed upset so I looked out the barn door only to see our 8 month old bull calf walking toward me. So, he also had walked through the electric fence. He has always been standoffish (something he got from his dam Cherry Blossom) and doesn't take food treats from your hand and is not halter broke. I felt a pit in my gut thinking I would be chasing him around all night. But, I went in and got a leaf of hay and hoped he might follow it. Thankfully, he did. He was closest to the female alpaca pasture gate so I slowly lead him with the hay over to there and with a bit of coaxing got him in that pasture for the night. This is also the only pasture completely fenced in with woven wire so I didn't need to worry about him getting out again overnight.

Someday I will be able to sleep through the night.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Work on the barn gets done!

I noticed this morning while doing chores that end of our 6' woven wire fence had gotten mangled a bit. After feeding I walked out into the pasture to get a closer look. This part of the fence is kind of loose since it was the end of the roll but didn't quite reach where the next wooden post will be. In the future when we get more fencing we will be splicing them together, but for right now, the end of the roll is being staked with a T-post and then the electric fence begins. It was obvious that a deer had gotten tangled in the woven wire and struggled to get free. The spacing on the wire had been distorted and the fence was leaning out quite a bit. It will still hold our livestock for now so it is not at the top of our list for fixing today. It will be nice when we have 6' fencing all around the pasture so the deer can't get in at all.

Neil actually got a chance to work on the end wall of the barn today! He got about 2/3 of the wall framed in and sided. All that is left is framing around the 8' wide door and putting on the rest of the siding. Hopefully next weekend will see the completion of the barn siding project. We still need to build some doors and my office in the barn but I am happy to have the wind break this wall will provide the animals.

I brought more hay up from the semi-trailer today. While I was in there I counted the bales I had remaining. I have 31 bales left after taking today's load. That means I have only about 45 days left of hay at best. Come January I am going to have to find some more hay... probably about 50-75 bales at the very least.

This afternoon I also took the tractor out into the pasture and collected the down wood out in the tree stand. It made for a good load of wood on the tractor. I figure it will be a couple of days of cutting anyway. Oh, and Neil took a few minutes and sharpened the chainsaw chain for me. I did a test cut after the fact and it was like cutting through butter! That will make cutting wood so much faster.

Neil and I also got the 10x10 pop-up canopy set up over the catch pen for Eloise once she arrives. The transporter called this afternoon and said it would be later this evening that he would be delivering her.

10pm Update: Well, Eloise is here at last! Finally, all of our alpacas are here on the farm with us. She has a cute face but being a black alapca in the dark of night it was hard to get a good look at her. I threw some hay down for her along with some water and after a bit left her to settle down for the night. I can't wait to see her in daylight.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Odds and Ends

The weather was warm here today and I took advantage of that and worked outside most of the day. I got my firewood cut, brought hay up to the barn from the semi-trailer, mucked out the alpaca part of the barn, cleaned out my asparagus bed and mulched it over with the soiled straw from the barn, emptied the trailer from a run to Southern States for livestock feed yesterday (300lbs of feed and 4 bales of straw), threw a clean bale of straw back down for the alpacas, assembled the four PVC pipe mineral feeders (two for the goats and one each for the male and female alpacas) and lastly in preparation for our alpaca Eloise's arrival tomorrow I moved the 10x10 catch pen out of the female alpaca pasture and put it over by the tool shed (Eloise will have to be in isolation from the other alpacas for ~2 weeks). Whew!

The chickens gave us 20 eggs today! Three I found in the goat barn again.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I lost a rooster today...

and I don't know why. That bugs me.

Two mornings ago I discovered one of my Welsummer roosters trying to hide behind the metal feed can in the chicken coop while the turkey tom was all puffed up next to him. When I extracted the rooster I noticed that he was bleeding from his comb. I don't know why the turkey was picking on him. My only thought at the time was that now that there is only one tom turkey he doesn't have anyone else to dominate besides the roosters.

Anyway, I ended up putting the Welsummer rooster in one of the brooder pens with some water and feed to let him de-stress and heal from his wounds. I really wasn't that concerned about him as he walked right over the water and had a drink. I just thought he was being bullied a bit.

Then last night I noticed that he seemed really depressed. I went in to pick him up and he was very thin and non-responsive. So, not surprising, I discovered him dead this morning when I went in to do chores. I looked him all over and couldn't find anything odd about him except his wasted condition and the laceration on his comb. There was a small amount of blood in the brooder but not enough to be fatal by any means. I am stumped. I wish I had the funds to send him off to the state lab for necropsy, maybe that would give me an answer.

But, for now I will just keep a close eye on the rest of the flock, although I don't know if would notice anything before it was too late as this rooster I had just been watching a few days before and he seems fine.

Got a few tasks done today. I spread some straw inside the chicken hoop house to encourage the birds to go in there and to give the ducks a warm place to sleep at night. I cleaned out the chicken nest boxes and refilled with clean straw (something I do at least every other day). I got my wood cut and stacked for the day. I have also had to start bringing the rabbit water bottles into the house and filling with warm water to keep them from staying frozen all day.

I got 16 eggs again. Three of which I found in the goat barn and two in a nest by the cows milking stanchion.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Daily Musings

Another bitter cold (for NC anyway) and windy day here. Still, I got a few things done. I recovered the hoop house in the chicken pen that the turkeys and ducks tend to spend a lot of time in. The old tarp had become completely tattered from the chickens and turkeys roosting on the top of it and the hole in the top was bigger then what was still being covered. It didn't provide much shelter for the birds anymore. So, yesterday, I had picked up a new heavy duty 12x16 tarp to recover the house with. After I finished getting the new tarp in place it was amazing the temperature difference inside of the house just by getting out of the wind. Wind chill is what kills most livestock. Give them a place to get out of the wind and they will be quite happy.

I also got my daily tractor bucket load of firewood cut and stacked.

I got some exciting news today too. I heard from the farm in CO, Fossil Ridge Alpacas, that has been breeding and boarding one of our female alpacas, Eloise. She was picked up by the livestock transporter this morning and is due to arrive here on Sunday afternoon! I am quite excited to have her here at last.

New record: 16 eggs today. Three which were green from my easter egger chickens.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What's that smell?

Went down to the barn this morning to feed the animals as usual... as soon as I entered the door to the barn I could smell it. Skunk! Not overpowering so I don't think it was in the barn. More likely one of the animals got hit out in the pasture overnight and carried the scent into the barn with them. My first guess was the LGDs.. but no, they didn't smell once I got close to them. It seemed to be strongest on the other side of the barn near the cow and donkey pen. After giving everyone a good whiff I determined that it was the donkeys that got hit. And of coarse they just wanted to rub all over me looking for their morning cookies! Yuck! A lovely way to start my day.

Other then a little skunk odder the day was pretty uneventful. Morning chores, cut and stacked a tractor bucket full of wood for the woodstove, cleaned up paca beans, cleaned the kitchen, tended the woodstove, played with the kids, evening chores, made dinner, etc.

The chickens gave 11 eggs today.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The woodstove is in!

We finally have heat! Neil and his dad (who was up here for the holiday weekend) got our new wood stove installed today. It was a bit more of a chore then Neil thought it was going to be. We had planned on installing the stove in our fireplace opening and running the smokestack that comes off the top of the stove straight up the flue. Unfortunately, due to the built in smoke chase in the brick chimney everything didn't line up. Neil ended up with a hammer breaking out the bricks at the back of the chimney so the stove could get pushed back into the opening another 6-7 inches. Once that was done both of them had to go up on the roof to drop the new Zero clearance chimney liners down the old brick chimney. Finally, Neil framed in the smoke stack, installed the chimney cap and mortared it all in place to divert the rain. But by late afternoon we had a fire burning in the wood stove! Yeah!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What a feast!

Well, today was our Turkey Day. Neil's parents arrived in town last night and came by to take us out to dinner before heading to the hotel for the night. This morning they arrived back at the farm.

We had a nice visit. The kids were very excited to have company again. I spent most of the morning cooking for our turkey dinner. Good thing I like to cook! This was our meal this year:

Heritage turkey with maple-rosemary glaze
Sausage, apple and cranberry stuffing
Mashed potatoes
Turkey gravy
Rosemary baked onions w/ cream
Cranberry sauce
Sweet dinner rolls
Apple pie for dessert

It was a wonderful day and a wonderful meal!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving! This is my very favorite holiday; family, friends and good food is what it is all about!

Here on the farm we are not celebrating until Saturday when Neil's parents will come up for a few days from SC. So, today, Neil and I were out in the pasture setting new fence posts for the new male alpaca pasture we need to put Finley into. It didn't take too long to get the posts set as we spaced them about 50 feet apart. This will be an interior 3 strand electric fence so we are not too concerned about security. We got all the posts set today and one line of the electric string installed... we ran out of electric string and the store is not open today as it is Thanksgiving!

We will finish it up in the morning hopefully.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Phew... got it done!

I ended up having two of my turkey customers show up in the morning back to back and both wanted tours of the farm. It was fun visiting with them and discussing the proper way to cook a heritage bird (to make sure they enjoyed their bird). But, it was 11:30am by the time everyone left and I still had one more turkey to butcher for my last customer that could be showing up at any momment!

I wasted no time and went down to the barn to get the tom I planned on butchering. About an hour later I was almost done plucking the last of the pin feathers out when the phone rang. It was my last customer. They live in Durham, NC and would be there in 40 minutes! Great... that gave me just enough time to get the turkey done and cooling in an ice bath by the time they arrived. By the time they toured the farm the turkey was cooled down and ready to go. Perfect timing!

Then it was time to rest!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Turkey Butchering

Today was the day I needed to butcher three of our heritage turkeys for customers to pick up tomorrow for their Thanksgiving dinners. I had done my research and read up on butchering turkeys this past weekend. It is pretty much the same as butchering out the chickens I have been doing all summer and fall but the scald time is different and I picked up a few other pointers that I hoped would make things go more smoothly. All the accounts I read said it took about an hour to properly dress out a turkey so I was prepared for a long morning.

Unlike the chickens that were just for us to eat here at the farm these turkeys were for others and I wanted them to be carefully prepared and beautifully presented birds.

Well, first thing I needed to do was to create a larger "killing cone" as these 30lb live weight turkeys were just not going to fit into the cut off gallon milk jug I use for the chickens. I found a 5 gallon bucket and cut a triangular opening in the bottom. I then screwed it the wall behind the tool shed next to the chicken sized cone... but lower so I didn't have to lift the 30lb bird so high to get in into the cone. Once that was done, I went up to the house and got my hot water scalding pot ready on the outside grill burner. Grabbed my knife and headed down to the chicken coop to get the first of the toms. Well, not to give awful details but it took me two hours from start to finish before I was happy enough with it. It dressed out at 13lbs. Phew... only two more to go!

Since I do have two young kids I couldn't go right into the second one plus my feet needed a break. I had to feed the kids and just spend some time with them as they had been really good while I was working. By the time I started on turkey number 2 it was 1pm. This one only took about an hour and a half and dressed out at 12lbs.

Still, my fingers were soar from pulling pin feathers so I took a chance and decided to do the third turkey in the morning. A real risk in case all three customers come first thing in the morning. We will have to see.

10 eggs today.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Farm visitors and frisky alpacas

I met a wonderful couple this morning that came out to the farm to pick out one of our Narragansett turkeys for Thanksgiving. They live local to us on a small farm. I had a very nice visit with them and look forward to chatting more when they come on Wednesday to pick up their dressed turkey.

On that note... I have three turkeys to butcher in the morning for customers to pick up on Wednesday! It should make for a long morning.

Our young male alpaca, Finley, turns a year old this week. He has, up until tonight, been peacefully living in with the girls because the only other pasture right now to put him in would be with our other two intact males that are three years old and I feared he would be picked on too much. Finley has not shown any interest in the girls before.. and I have been watching for it.. but tonight when I was down at the barn he was full of spunk and pronking around the pen. I turned around for a moment to move one of the feed bowls and I could here orgeling! I turned around and there was Finley cushed over our seven month old female cria Celia! She wanted nothing to do with him and popped right up. Male alpacas generally are not able to sucessfully breed until 2-3 years of age but there are more then a few documented cases of juvenile males being fertile. I have three older open girls in that pasture as well that I don't really want him to breed with. So, I moved him into the 10x10 catch pen in the barn for the night. He wasn't very happy about it and started humming right away. I hope he settled down quickly as the catch pen is in the barn loafing area that the girls have access too so he shouldn't feel too isolated from the herd, which includes his mom. I will be curious to check on him in the morning. Then I need to decide what to do with him from now on. I guess it is time for more fencing to go up!

Tonight the kids and I made pumpkin cookies. They helped me measure ingredients and mix the batter. Then they had fun rolling out the dough and then using my many cookie cutters to cut them into shapes. 12 minutes later... yummy!

I got an even dozen eggs from the chickens today. I have started painting another sign to advertise eggs for sale. Hopefully it will be done in a few days as I have about four dozen eggs in the house now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A beautiful Fall day!

What a wonderful day we had here today. Warm with a slight breeze, blue sky and white puffy clouds! With the colors of Fall around me it could stay like this forever!

I went out to do chores this morning and it was so nice out I just kept finding things to do outside. The kids and I worked in the raised garden beds to get the last of the tomato vines out, did some weeding and turned some alpaca pellets into the beds. I also lined some of the walk ways with the paper feed bags and then covered them with some moldy hay to keep the weeds from taking over the garden paths. I also moved the pool off the lawn so the grass could start to green up again under it. Moved some more fence posts we had lying about. Got some bales of hay out of the semi trailer and moved them up to the barn for feeding. I also did a lot of swinging the kids in between all that. When we finally headed up to the house again it was almost 1pm! What a great way to spend the morning!

The chickens are continuing to increase their egg production... with 9 eggs yesterday and 8 today. I think it is time to start selling a few dozen a week!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Daily ramblings.

Today Neil got a chance to build the hay feeder for the alpaca girls. I have been feeding them hay on the ground which isn't good for several reasons; 1. A lot gets wasted from being walked on and 2. It can increase they incidence of parasites from eating soiled hay from the ground. I was thrilled to get the feeder built finally. The girls seem to really like it too and all of them can easily fit around it.

Neil also installed my new solar shed light inside the goat barn as well as another solar motion sensor light over the door to the big barn. Both of these will help out with evening chores as it is pitch dark by 5:30pm this time of year.

Well, I butchered four roosters today, two Turkens, a Barred Rock and my last Dark Brahma (a feather footed breed). This should be the last of the chicken butchering for a while. I still have more roosters then I really need at 8. Those that remain include a Barred Rock, a Cuckoo Maren, a Dominique, a Dark Cornish, the Hill Roamer, two Welsummers, and my mystery rooster. The mystery rooster should go in the pot but I just think he is so handsome he will be able to stick around as long as he behaves himself.

But, as far as butchering goes, I think that doing 3 at one time is really my limit if I have to do them all by myself. My back really gets soar from all the standing in one place during the scalding/plucking/cleaning process. Not to mention almost wearing the skin off the back of my right hand from repeatedly inserting into the cavity of the bird during cleaning. You really do need small hands for that job. I knew that doing all four would be a strain but I wanted to be done with them as next weekend I will be butchering 3 turkeys out for Thanksgiving.

Only 5 eggs today... hmmm... what's up with that?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Preparing to be warm...

Work continues under the house to get more of the floor insulated before it gets too cold outside. It is working pretty well to have me outside cutting the insulation and then sending it into Neil to install. We worked on it for almost two hours until Neil's knees couldn't take much more.

Before Neil crawled out from under the house he took a bit longer and installed the whole house water filter onto the water line. It will be nice to be able to drink water right from the tap finally. We give our Bria water pitcher a real work out around here!

Neil was going to start construction on the hay feeder for the alpacas this afternoon but when we uncovered his table saw the table was completly rusted. Some steel-wool and WD-40 got the worst of it off but by that time it was getting dim and we needed to get cleaned up for a road trip to see about a wood stove that Neil saw in a store in Greensboro, NC yesterday. It was marked as $198.oo. Neil called this morning to confirm the price and to see if they had them in stock before we drove the hour and a half down to get it. We were assured that everything was fine.

We left the house about 4:30pm and arrived just after 6pm to look at the stove. It was excextly what we wanted for our living room. It was a small stove so it would fit snugly into our current fireplace opening, it had a good EPA rating, took 18" logs, had a 6" top mounted smoke pipe and had a glass front so we could enjoy the fire... and it was within our budget! Neil found a clerk and asked to have one brought up to the front so we could buy it. The clerk looked at the SKU# on the tag and said "Oh, this is the wrong tag. Let me go look up the right SKU# for this." Right away Neil and I knew it wasn't going to be good. He came back and said that this stove was a special order stove and it would take 2-3 weeks to get one here... and it was actually $699! What?!

Neil asked to see the manager. When the manager got there Neil told him that he had specifically called earlier to confirm the price of this stove, as the price did seem "to good to be true" to us, and that when told it was right and that there were plenty in stock that we drove 3 hours round trip to come get it. The manager was great! He apoligized for their mistake and said that if we wanted to take the floor model (that had some minor scratches on the glass door) that he could offer it to us for $450. Neil and I discussed it and as it truly was the perfect stove for us and other comp models we had researched were well over $1000 we opted to dig deep into the budget and get it anyway. So, while the stock guys where loading it up for us I milled around the store a bit. I found a great little solar shed light for the goat barn for $40 and the kids picked up a little toy a piece. When we were at the register paying for our items the manager said, "I am going to give you an additional %20 off the full retail value on the stove and your other item as well. Oh, and the toys are on the house too!" WOW! Now this was a manager that respected that his staff messed up and wanted to make it right for us! So, that $699 stove ended up costing us less then $350!

This is a photo from the manufacturer's web site. Interestingly, the stove is listed on their site at $899.50!

There were seven eggs this morning!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's always something around here...

A few days ago I noticed that one of my Easter Egger chickens didn't look right. I was only seeing her from across the chicken yard (as I couldn't get hold of her) but it looked like she was missing a bunch of feathers under her tail around her vent. I couldn't see anything "pasting up" on her and she looked BAR (bright, alert and responsive) so I didn't think much about it. In fact I forgot all about it until this morning when I was in the coop feeding the birds. There she was on one of the roosts with her head down and it looked like someone trimmed a 90 degree angle into her feathers under her tail. I went over and picked her up... which she didn't resist much (never a good sign). I turned her over and could now see a bit of stool pasted to her vent and her vent looked mildly prolapsed. I put her into one of the brooder pens by herself while I finished up with the rest of the chicken chores.

Once I was done with everything else I went back in with her to get her all set up with food and water. I also wanted to clean up her hind end and get a better view of what was going on. The brooder pen is in better light so when I laid her on her back this time and pulled her belly feathers up a bit to get a better view of her vent area did I get a surprise! Maggots!

Now, I have seen more then my share of maggots being a vet tech for over 12 years but still it is never something you want to see. On even closer inspection I could see that she had an open wound about an inch and half long just ventral to her vent. It looked old... and full of maggots. I felt so bad that she had been suffering with this and I didn't know. No wonder she looked so depressed this morning. I had no idea how she got the wound. Was it a laceration, an abscess or had she been egg bound? But what I was looking at was an old wound with dead tissue full of maggots on a depressed chicken that felt thin. I needed to make a desicion about what to do with her. Should I end her suffering and put her down or try to treat it as best I could not knowing how she got it and how extensive the damage may be internally.

Well, I desided I needed to make a strong effort to help her. If she doesn't improve at all over the 24 hours after treatment I will let her go. So, up to the house I went to get supplies. First off, gloves! Then a warm water/betadine flush, a syringe barrel, some 3x3 guaze pads and a topical antibiotic. Back in the coop I flushed the wound until no more maggots emerged from it. Picked of the dirt and scabs and cleaned her up as best I could. Finally, I liberaly applied the topical antibiotic to the wound inside and out. She was so good through the whole ordeal but that could have been that she was so depressed anyway. I set her up on the roost in the brooder pen, gave her some pellets to eat and diluted some powdered antibiotic in her water as well. Time will tell...

Evening Update:

I checked on her several times today and she never seemed worse. This evening at feeding time she was actually preening and it looked as if she had gone through about half the water I had put out for her. I gave the wound a quick look and already it looked much quieter and no sign of any missed maggots either. So, so far so good. In the morning, if she is still with me, I will give the area a good cleaning again and reaply the topical antibiotic. I have seen some of my other birds fully recover from some pretty bad wounds they have gotten from our LGDs so I won't give up hope for her yet.

Got three eggs today.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Daily Musings

During chores this morning I moved the hay feeder Neil built yesterday into the cow/donkey/goat pasture by the barn. I threw in about a half a bale of hay and everyone went crazy. Our Dexter cow Cherry Blossom (who has lost a big chunk of weight this Fall already due to the drought and nursing her calf) was her typical Boss cow self and tried to chase everyone else away from the feeder so she could have it all to herself. Hopefully after a few days of hay she will calm down and let everyone else eat in peace too.

Then this morning a got a call from a gentleman asking if we still had any of the commercial chicken nest boxes I had listed for sale in the NC AgReview in September. In fact I didn't sell a single one from that ad so I still have them all sitting down by the shed. I took some photos and e-mailed them to him. He ended up stopping by this afternoon to pick up the only single unit we had. He is just getting his first chickens and stayed to visit a bit and look at our setup with the birds and ask questions. He seemed like a nice guy and I hope the chickens work out well for him.

I did a bit of cleaning up around the yard, moved a pile of fence posts that has been hanging around since our spring fencing effort. I also finally got around to hanging up the two signs that say "WORKING LIVESTOCK GAURDIAN DOG: PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB". I put one up by the barn and the other on the fence beside the driveway for visitors to see.

Finally, late this afternoon I got a call from a neighbor up the road that we have yet to meet. They must have gotten our phone number off of our farm sign that we just installed yesterday. They said they had an osterich cross the road in front of their house and wanted to see if it was ours. I told them that we had a lot of critters here but large flightless birds were not one of them. :) I least I know that people are seeing the farm sign!

There were four eggs today.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

It's the little things that count.

Today was a day full of small projects.

After completing the painting on the farm sign this week, Neil was able to get it installed for me up by the road. Once installed I did have a small amount of touch up painting to do with the white background as the turkeys left foot prints on the first side I painted before we flipped it to paint the second side. Painting the sign was a project that took far longer then originally planned and I am very happy to have it done at last. Yeah!

Then I butchered our three Road Island Red roosters. These three were the hardest of all the birds I have done to pluck! I was very frustrated. What should have been a 5 minutes job for each of them turned into 20 minutes a piece. The feathers just didn't want to come out, especially on the wings. I knew I scalded them for the same time and in my frustration I tore the skin on two of them. Boy, wasn't I happy when that project was over!

Meanwhile, Neil was down working on a hay feeder for the cows and donkeys. Prior to now I had to place to feed them hay except on the ground and there is just so much waste that way. Our hay here is too expensive with our drought to waste any of it so I have been waiting for a hay feeder to start giving the cows any hay. It will be nice to start supplimenting our poor drought damaged pasture with some hay at last. The previous owners had a 2x4 frame they left behind that held three trash cans side by side. Neil simply took that framework and covered the floor and the four sides with plywood, put on two wheels in the front and two wooden handles in the back and it was done. The wheels will make it easy for me to move it around myself. The whole thing is pretty slick and it was all made with stuff we had lying around... which are the best projects when you are a homesteader!

Finally, Neil installed some new locks on the bedroom french doors as the current locks were getting a bit old.

I made a yummy dinner of grilled London Broil, mashed potatoes, green beans and fresh dinner rolls. Everything was so good!

Three eggs today.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sickness continues...

We are still recovering from sickness here so didn't get anything done today.

We did got four eggs though! Unfortunately, one was cracked open and eaten by the chickens. So we only had three for the house.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

No new bunnies today.

Today is the day that Purslane, our American Chinchilla Rabbit doe, was due to kindle. I have had my doubts that she was actually pregnant this past week since she hasn’t swollen in size at all and she hasn’t shown any nesting behaviors. So, I am afraid we may not get rabbit kits today.

Our buck, Sassparilla, did get in with her for an unknown amount of time about 4-5 days after I put them together for breeding. I will wait a few more days before I put them together again to see if their second meeting was more successful.

This will be Purslane’s first strike. Three strikes and she will no longer be considered part of the breeding program here. Strikes can be given for several reasons such as slipped pregnancies, very low birth numbers (1-3), poor mothering, etc.

The kids and I are all suffering with head colds today. Running noses, coughs, soar thoughts, lethargic. I think we will veg-out on the bed in my room and watch TV and try to stay hydrated all day.

We got one egg today.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

House improvements.

Neil and I worked for a while on installing the insulation under the house today. We have no basement so under the house consists of a crawl space of about 3-4 feet high depending on which side of the house you are on. Which makes working under there for any length of time a miserable job. To make matters worse, since the house was built in the 40’s, the spaces between the joists are not the standard width of today’s insulation. We had to cut additional 5 inch wide strips to fill the spaces completely. It made for slow going.

After a few hours of insulating we moved on to a smaller project, one that we could finish in a short period of time. Our little goat barn only had one door into it and that door opens into the pasture. That meant that during the day when the goats were out grazing they could not go back into their barn because I always need to have that door closed so the donkeys and cows don’t go inside and eat the goat’s pellets. So, my solution was to create a smaller door that was goat sized that only the goats could use to come and go from the barn at their leisure. Neil whipped up a great sliding door to one side of the existing door. It works great and now the goats have access to their barn all day if they want to. Yeah! Another project off the to-do list!

Butchered two roosters today too.

We had two eggs today.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Painting the new farm sign.

Spent most of the day working on painting the new farm sign. I got one side all done and I really like it. I was afraid that hand painting the farm sign might make it look at little cheesy but I think it is coming out really well!

The sign is so heavy that I can't flip it over myself to paint the other side without risking scratching the finished side so I need to wait for Neil to be here to flip it over. Then we just need to decide where the best place to install it will be.

I will post photos once it is all done.

I only found one egg this morning and it was on the floor of the coop and slightly cracked. Most likely stepped on by one of the birds. So, that egg went to Tate, our Entlebucher Mountian Dog, on his breakfast kibble. He was happy!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Kitty Update...

Today the kids and I headed into town to run some errands and go to the grocery store. Other then that is was just a day to relax.

I realized that I haven't given un update on our new little grey kitten. Who I have started calling Sweet Pea. She is still with us and if our dog Tate is not outside near us she will come over to get some loving. Evan has really taken a liking to her and has been very good about sitting still and letting her come over to be pet.

The chickens did give us two eggs this morning. Tonight for dinner we made spagetti and meatballs and when McKayla cracked one of the eggs from this morning into the meatball mix it was a double yolker! Something three year old McKayla had never seen before... she was thrilled!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Cleaning day.

Today was a cleaning day around the house.

There were two eggs today!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A rude awakening.

I hate waking up abruptly. This morning it was noises out on the deck. At first I thought it might be the cats jumping down from the railings but I after a few more heavy thumps I knew it was something bigger then a cat. I jumped out of bed to look out at the deck and was not surprised to see Emmie and Berk, our Anatolian shepherds, up on the deck knocking over chairs. I threw on some clothes and went outside to get them back in the pasture with the alpacas where they belong. I had taken about 5 steps across the deck when I saw through the railing the donkeys across the driveway on the side lawn! My heart stopped for a second... how did they get out? I went back to the bedroom and yelled to Neil that the donkeys where out and I needed his help.

If the donkeys were out on the lawn that meant the pasture fence was broken and the cows and male alpacas could be wandering around somewhere too! Since the donkeys were happily grazing I first dealt with Emmie and Berk. Berk followed me down to the barn and into his pasture but Emmie was more interested in exploring. I needed to rattle some food in her bowl to get her to follow me into the pasture. Once the dogs were secure I grabbed some donkey cookies and called to Mal and Inora. Thank goodness they have become treat hounds and followed me around to the back of the barn. And that is where I found the walk through gate wide open. So, at least it wasn't the fence that was broken just an open gate. A few more cookies and both donkeys were back in their pasture too. Then I quickly scanned the pasture to do a head count on the cows and alpacas and everyone was accounted for! Yeah!

By that time Neil had come down to the barn to get an update on the situation. The gate was easy enough to explain... last night during chores Evan went out the gate to go to the front of the barn while McKayla and I went through the cow stall in the barn. That gate is covered in no climb fencing to keep the goats from squeezing out and because of that it can be a hard pull to get it to latch fully. It must not have gotten latched all the way and the donkeys discovered it open and went exploring. I am just glad that no one else discovered it as well. As far as the dogs were concerned I was not sure yet about that. Neil went and walked their fence line and found where they had pushed the fence up and crawled under it again. A little bit of wire to tie the fence to the T-posts hopefully solved that problem too.

What a morning... I finished up chores and we had breakfast before we normally even wake up!

There were no eggs this morning.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

An egg-citing thing happened!

Yes, I discovered our first two eggs in the chicken house this morning. I am so excited as I did not expect any eggs until at least November. They were both brown eggs so I know that they did not come from the Easter Egger or the Hill Roamer hens. Most likely they are from my two Welsummer hens as they are about 4-5 weeks older then the rest of the chickens.

It was nice that there was two eggs as both Evan and McKayla were able to have one to hold. McKayla wanted to cook hers right away so we settled on pancakes for breakfast and used her egg in the batter. Evan wanted to put his back in the coup so we could have a baby chicken but I finally convinced him that we should wait until next Spring for baby chickens.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

It's a mystery!

Well, I don't know how he did it but when I looked out the window after waking up this morning I could see our LGD Berk sleeping OUTSIDE the pasture along the gate. I don't know how he got out or why. Once down at the barn Berk was very happy to go back into the pasture for his breakfast.

It's a mystery that Berk is not giving up!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Time flies...

I can't believe that it is time for my mom and grandmother to leave already! Where did the time go? We had such a nice visit I wish it could have been longer.

The kids and I drove them down to the airport this morning.

Back home, we rested for a while and then I worked on the painted letters for the farm sign and got one side done. I hope to get the sign done by the weekend so Neil and I can install it.

Monday, October 01, 2007


We have quite a bit of this plant in different areas of the property. It is a fast growing plant with red stalks, broad green leaves and, this Fall, large dark blue berries all over them. I was unsure what is was but was hoping that the beautiful looking berries would be edible. A quick internet search proved otherwise.

It turns out this is called Pokeweed. The Iowa Extention office says this on Pokeweed:
"The entire pokeweed plant contains a poisonous substance similar to saponin. The alkaloid phytolaccine also occurs in small amounts. Most authorities regard the plant as poisonous. Birds are apparently immune to this poison. Animals usually do not eat the plant because of its bitter taste. Humans have been poisoned by eating parts of the root, which is the most poisonous part of the plant. Children are often attracted by the bright crimson juice of the berries and can be poisoned by eating the berries. Indians used the juice for staining feathers, arrowshafts, and garments. Indians and early settlers used the root in poultices and certain drugs for skin diseases and rheumatism. If taken internally, pokeweed is a slow acting but a
violent emetic. Vomiting usually starts about 2 hours after the plant or parts of it have been eaten. Severe cases of poisoning result in purging, spasms, and sometimes convulsions. If death occurs, it is usually due to paralysis of the respiratory organs. Cases of animal or human poisoning should be handled by a veterinarian or a physician. Because of the danger of human poisoning, pokeweed should be eradicated when discovered. This is especially true if the plants are in hedges, gardens, and other areas adjacent to a home where children may be attracted by clusters of berries."
So, I guess I need to make the time to go out into the pasture and remove the weeds from there. We also have some closer to the house which I will remove. But there is quite a bit in the woods away from the animals and kids that I will leave for now for the birds over the winter.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Family comes to visit!

Neil, the kids and I drove the hour to the RDU Airport to pick up my mother and grandmother this afternoon. They flew down from Maine to spend five days here at the farm. They are the first of my family to make it down here and I am excited for their visit.

After we picked them up we stopped and had dinner in Durham, NC. When we finally got home it was after dark so unfortunately they didn't get a chance to see the place in daylight. Still, mom came down to the barn as I did my night feedings. Meanwhile, Neil figured out the sleeping araingments inside.

I am looking forward to spending time with them... I just wish their visit could be longer.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I realized that I don't mention the kids too much here on the blog. Mostly that is because at this point in their lives they are helping me around the farm, playing and exploring. There are many times that I see them do something that I wish I could instantly document that moment but I don't happen to have my camera with me and by the time I sit down to blog the specific memory has faded.
So when the kids and I were creating new crayons with our crayon maker today I grabbed the camera and snapped a few shots.

The kids love using the crayon maker... sometimes I think they break their crayons just so they can create new ones! We have several crayon molds... the standard round, trucks and animals. It is fun to create new color combinations and to see how they look and color after they are ready.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Chicken Butchering

First thing we did this morning (after chores and breakfast that is) was to hook up the trailer and head down to the feed store to pick up the 25 bales of hay that I pre-paid for on Tuesday. I would have liked to get more but at $8.75 a bale 25 was all that we could mange right now. That will bring our hay numbers up to 52 bales for the winter. To be on the safe side I would love to have twice that number put up. All this means is that I need to be conservative with the hay and not use any until we really need to. As long there is green grass in the pastures the livestock is just going to have to make do. Being a small farmer on a tight budget can be a struggle at times.

After getting the hay we did a bit of shopping in town since we were there. Got some food to stock the pantry and some new shoes, two pair of jeans and couple of shirts for Evan. He is growing so fast and with cooler weather coming on I can't get away with just putting him in shorts and sandals all the time.

Then this afternoon it was time for me to butcher the three roosters I had separated out from the flock last night. This was the first time I had butchered chickens all by myself (I had learned to do it in college). First I had to decide between the chopping block or using a "killing cone". I opted for the killing cone as the part I hate the most about the butchering process is having them flap around after they are dead (or dieing). The cone holds their wings against their body and prevents any of the flapping around. My "cone" was just a plastic gallon jug with the bottom cut off and the spout cut off to allow the head and neck to pass through. The jug was installed bottom up on the backside of the tool shed with a 5-gallon bucket on the ground to catch the blood.

One at a time the chickens were placed upside down into the cone. Chickens become very calm when held upside down which makes is very easy to put the chicken into the cone. So, with my first chicken in the cone I firmly held his head, took a deep breath, and using a sharp knife slit the jugular vein on one side of his neck. I continued to hold his head to keep him from shaking it, and blood, all over. I repeated that with the other two birds. Once that was done (which is by far the hardest part) I scalded the birds in a big pot of water I had sitting on the side burner of our outdoor grill. Time of scalding varies with the temp of the water and the age of the bird. My water was at 125 degrees and I swished them around (one at a time) for about 45 seconds to a minute. Once scalded the feathers come off by hand pretty easy. I then took the three birds into the kitchen to finish the remainder of the cleaning process. I would say it took 7-10 minutes per bird to remove the heads and feet and eviscerate them. This time should get closer to 5 minutes as I get more practice. Once they were all cleaned they went into a cold water brine (just water and salt) and placed into the fridge to age for 2-3 days. Once they age they can be cooked or frozen for later.

All in all the butchering process was not as bad as one might think it would be. Now I only have 15 more birds to go!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cookie update.

Just a quick update on my Hill Roamer chicken, Cookie. She has been in the brooder all week recovering from her run in with our LGD, Berk on Monday. Yesterday she was up and pacing the side of the pen near the rest of the flock and I could tell that she was becoming stressed from being seperated. It didn't want to rush things so I gave her one more night in the brooder by herself. So, this morning I went into the brooder and gave her a good look over. The hole under her right wing has sealed over with no signs of infection or drainage. I would be surprised if she grew feathers there again but it will never show once it is healed. Her tail feathers will take awhile before they grow back in to be the beautiful tail she had before the incident. I proclaimed her healthy enough to join the rest of the flock which she was very thankful for. This evening when I went into the coop to secure it for the night she was up on the highest perch with some other hens so I guess she is feeling better.

While in the coop tonight I seperated out three of the young roos into brooder pens with some water only. If I have time I am going to try to get them processed tomorrow! I have about 20 roosters that are ready to be processed. These unlucky fellows just happened to be the three plumpest ones that were easy to catch. They consist of one of the turkens and two of the mystery white birds that are turning buff/brown in color. I don't think I will ever order a mixed lot of chicks again... it has really bothered me not knowing the actual breeds of some of the birds! Neil says it is just my OCD surfacing. :)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Farm visitors.

In the almost five months that we have been living here at the farm fulltime we have had our share of driveby farm visitors. People see the alpacas from the road and are curious about them so they stop. Some just stop at the top of the driveway and watch for a few minutes, other visitors want to see them up close and personal. I don't mind at all... I like having visitors and showing off the alpacas.

This afternoon I had a lovely woman named Robin knock on the door and introduced herself as a "spinner" and ask if those were alpaca. She was very excited to see them and I was more then happy to give her a tour. It turns out she only lives about 20 miles North of here in Virginia. She owns a rug hooking studio called Robin's Nest where she offers traditional rug hooking supplies and rug hooking retreats. Oh, in a world where I had more free time I would like to learn to hook rugs. Robin and I had several interests in common and it was nice to chat with her while she was here. I hope she feels free to stop in anytime for an extended visit, maybe even help me learn to spin!

Robin has a wonderful blog as well. Reading it has inspired me to make more time to work on my knitting. I have at least 4-5 projects on needles right now! I really need to get some done and maybe start working on some gifts for the hoidays.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

First time in all my years!

The kids and I were at the feed store this morning stocking up on a bunch of feed; alpaca, dairy cow, chicken crumbles, and some waterfowl. The stock guys always pull the orders from out back in their storage area and bring it up your vehicle and load it for you. Something I greatly appreciate when getting several hundred pounds of feed at once. Normally there is no problem and I am in and out in five minutes. Not today though! They couldn't find the alpaca feed I normally get or the waterfowl feed. The computer system said it was there so several guys and about twenty minutes later they finally found what I needed.

Meanwhile, McKayla had fallen asleep in the Suburban and Evan had climbed out the back onto the loading dock to see what he could see. He spotted something and called over to me to come see... it was a cat. Actually, a kitten probably about 4-5 months old. A little female. She was very friendly and came right up to Evan and I and rubbed all over us.

Now, in my whole adult life, twelve years of which I worked as a veterinary technician (eight of which was in an all feline practice), have I ever seen a cat or kitten out and about and felt the need to take it home with me. I like cats and respect them highly but I would never classify myself as a cat person. So why then did I find myself asking the folks inside the store who owned the little cat out on the loading dock? It simply was an issue of color. This little friendly cat was solid steel grey, my favorite cat color. And there was something about this little kitten that spoke to me.

Two of the most special cats in my life have been that same solid grey color, Gris and Billy. Neither of these two wonderful boys is still in my life. Gris, the more recent of the two, left a huge hole in my life when he was gone about a year ago.

The clerks in the store said the kitten was from a litter this spring out of a stray cat. This kitten was the last of the litter to still be around. It was a nice little kitten they said but that if I wanted it to please take it home with me. And just like that she ended up coming home with us.
The kids fell in love with her instantly. McKayla hoisted her up and carried her around for quite a while. We showed her where the food bowl was up on the deck and she ate until her little belly was full. After about 45 minutes of handling from the kids she had enough (who can blame her) and she ran off into the woods behind the house. I know if she is truly meant to be ours that she will stick around... I hope anyway!